Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Race Report: Make a Difference 5K 10.25.15

For a race that I thought was going to be kind of "meh," the Make A Difference 5K turned out to be much better than I anticipated. It seems to be a common theme with most of my races this year; I go into them thinking I am not going to do all that well for various reasons and then surprise myself but this race was different in the fact I had been sick for the better part of the week and haven't been sleeping all that well. I only had a head cold with no fever and thank goodness, the cough that kept me up for the past several nights was just one of those annoying tickles and not one where I was hacking up a lung but this is the first race this year that I feeling completely run down. Plus, I had taken several days off from running and had spent more time on the elliptical at the gym because earlier in the week, I decided to try a new pair of running shoes and they screwed up my heels/ankles so I thought the break would help things get back normal. Yes, the shoes were returned and so did my pain-free running. So, knowing how I was feeling Sunday morning and that a PR would not be in the cards, I decided if I could finish 26:00, I would be happy. I was also resolve to the fact that this would more than likely be the race my husband finished before me. He has been quickly catching up to me since he started racing with me this summer and at the last race we did a month ago, had it not been for the last ounce of energy I found from somewhere to pass him, he would have won it.

Deciding what to wear for the race was a challenge due to the weather. It was 52 and cloudy which actually makes for nice racing weather but there was a pretty strong wind which made it feel a lot colder. I finally decided on my light Saucony running jacket (and when I say light, it is…my long-sleeve running shirts are thicker...I love it and wish I they still made them), a tank top, and capris. After my husband I did our warm up run, I decided I was going to be too warm for the race so I put the jacket in the Jeep before we headed to the starting line. For probably a good 3/4 of the race, I wished I had the jacket because my arms were cold due to the wind but I told myself it was better to be a little chilled than too hot and it would have really annoying had I needed to run with the jacket tied around my waist.

The race was a gun start and not chipped timed and seeing the amount of walkers as well as younger kids that were participating, I wanted to get as close to the starting line as possible. It served me well as there were only a couple of times I had to maneuver around those who aren't aware of race etiquette. I know that probably makes me sound like a racing snob which I'm not, but if you've ever run a race before, even if you weren't trying to win it, you know what I mean. The race started and ended at the middle school where both my boys went to and the course meandered in and out of the park next to the school and the surrounding neighborhoods so this race was a mix of roads and trails. I was a little worried about running on a trail at first because it was covered in leaves and I didn't know what (holes, tree branches, chestnuts, dead squirrels, etc.) was below the leaves but I have to admit, it didn't take me long to forget about that and quite honestly, I think I'd really like to do more trail running because it was quite lovely.

For a majority of the race, every time I looked over my shoulder when I wanted to move from one side of the street or trail to the other, I could see my husband right behind me and I kept waiting for him to pass but at one point when I looked back, he wasn't there. I found out after the race that his shoe became untied so he had to stop. Now he will say it wouldn't have made a difference but I think he might have finished this race before me had he not stopped to tie it.

Surprisingly, I didn't feel as bad during the race as I thought I was going to. Granted, I felt fatigued and such but not any more really than any other race I've done. I had a tissue on hand just in case a sneezing fit hit but thankfully I ran sneeze-free. I think things would have been a lot different had I been feeling as cruddy as I was on Saturday and/or if I would have had that nasty, hacking cough you usually get with a cold. So while I definitely wasn't 100%, I could have been feeling a lot worse. This worked to my advantage.

My splits were 8:26, 8:31, and 8:29. I have to admit, I still am not good at knowing what pace means what finish time I'll have as I'm running so when I heard Nike+ announce my splits, I thought I'd easily make it under 26:00. No such luck. When I had the finish line in my sights and noticed the clock was already at 26:00, I knew I wasn't going to meet my goal but I sprinted to the finish with everything that I had anyway. Official time 26:07:92. Despite not feeling my best, I still placed 1st of 16 in my AG, 34/158 overall, and even though I didn't finish in the time I was hoping, I DID finish 15 seconds faster than the last 5K race from a little more than a month ago so I think I am finally headed back in the right direction to hopefully reach my goal of a sub 25:00 by the end of the year.

One thing that happened after this race that has never happened before is how weird my vision was after I finished the race. For several minutes after I exited the shoot and walked around the parking lot to cool down, I had a hard time focusing on things. My vision wasn't blurred and I didn't feel dizzy or anything, my eyes just had a hard time focusing. It only last for about 10 minutes or so but it was just really weird. Perhaps it was just from being under the weather and having an elevated heart rate during the sprint towards the finish? I looked back at some of the peak HRs during other races I've done and they are usually in the mid 180s but for this race, my HR spiked to 194 right towards end. I know a lot of things can affect your HR so I’m not concerned or anything, it's just more of an observation.

All in all, I really enjoyed the Make a Difference 5K and it was a nice surprise to do so well when I was fully expecting otherwise. I will definitely do this race again next year.

Oh, and one more thing. I have to mention the post-race snacks. Out of all the races I've done, this race had some of the best post-race goodies ever. It sounds kind of silly to mention and maybe I am becoming a race snob after all but I'm telling you, for a small, community-type event, the amount and variety of snack afterward ranked right up there with some of the larger races I've done, like the Northern Ohio Marathon Relay and Half Marathon, 10 Mile Drop, and the Rock City 5K. In contrast, I ran the Fox 8 Fox Trot 5K in August, an event not only sponsored but advertised by a local TV station and all they had were bananas and warm bottled water (there were other things about the race I wasn't crazy about and sadly, I wasn't the only participant who felt that way and perhaps I'll save that for another time). Not the end of the world but when you look at an event like that and then and event like the one on Sunday, it's just kind of worth mentioning. When I saw the event coordinator, whose son is on the same cross country team as my son, at our school's last meet yesterday, I thanked her for such an awesome event and pointed out how much the post-race goodness was appreciated (also mentioning my experience at the Fox Trot 5K).  She said every single item there was donated and I know all to well from being involved in a non-profit youth organization for the last 10 years how hard it is to not only ask for, but receive donations so I thought it would be nice to let her know we appreciated her efforts (kudos to the local businesses that donated items, too).

Running a race with good friends is always fun.
John (lower right), placed 1st in his AG and his wife, Nicole,
PRd at this race. Paul, despite not having he best race,
definitely kept me on my toes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wish You Were Here...

It’s hard to believe six months ago today, God decided you had fought the good fight long enough and it was time for you to come home. Hard to believe six months ago today was the last time I got to hold your hand, give you a kiss, and tell you how much I loved you one last time. Hard to believe six months ago today, you took your last breath on Earth and because of God's promise, were reunited with those who went before you and you got to give Rick a hug that was 19 years in the making. 

I know you are in a better place, I know you are no longer in pain and no longer suffering, and I know that you are with my dear sweet brother again and I am thankful for that. But so much has happened in the six months you've been gone and the sadness I feel cannot be put into words that you're not with us to be a part of it. I wish you were here. I guess God needed you more than we did, though, and it already feels like an eternity without you, but at least I know one day, in a blink of an eye, we will all be together again and that makes days like this and every day without you a little easier to take. I love you, Papa D.

Until we meet again…

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Race Report: Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person Relay

So what can I say about the Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person relay? It's more like what's NOT to say about it. There is so much to share, from the personal reasons why this race was important to me (which I talk about in my post from Sunday entitled Every Mile a Memory: Northern Ohio Marathon) to the race experience itself, I could write a short novel. I really tried to keep this brief but it was darn near impossible. Believe it or not, there are lots of things I left out so these are only the highlights so please bear with me! LOL

Two things about this event that definitely stand out in my mind. 1) Running a relay is a LOT of fun and I can't wait to do another one and 2) I have absolutely NO desire whatsoever to ever attempt a full marathon. But first, the weather...

Team One Motley Crew (in order of appearance):
The Marine, the Triathlete, the Marathoner,
the Survivor, and the Newbie.
Saturday was downright miserable; cold, windy, and rainy and had the weather been like that on Sunday, we would have been hating life. Luckily by 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, what precipitation was left had stopped and by race time at 7:30, it was a chilly 50 degrees with a real feel of 45 but rain-free. By the time I ran my leg around 10 a.m., the sun had come out and was 58 but it didn't take long into my run that I wish I had worn a tank top rather than a long sleeve running shirt.

Regarding the relay aspect itself, what a blast! From cheering on our first runner at the starting line to running with our last runner towards the finish and everything in between, it was so.much.fun. I honestly wish there were more races like this locally because I would do them in heartbeat. It was a little nerve racking at first because the one road we needed to take to get to relay exchange #1 was closed due to the race and wouldn't reopen until the bulk of the runners were past that point. Luckily the event took place where I live and a few of us were familiar with the roads so we were able to find an alternate route and get there well before my husband (runner #1) did. After the first relay exchange, we got the hang of getting from point to point so it went from being a little bit stressful to exciting and oftentimes silly. At the exchanges, it was fun talking with the volunteers, the other teams as they waited for their runners, fun watching for our runner so the next person could get ready to go, and fun being a runner as you accepted the timing device as well as handing it off. Lots of volunteers were positioned along the course directing runners so there was no doubt or confusion where the route went.

Regarding my leg, I was runner #4 and ran from just before the 16 mile marker and ended shortly after the 21st. The leg was supposed to be 6 miles but it actually ended up being 5.87 miles. I went through residential areas within a mile or so radius of my house and there were several residents standing in front of their houses cheering on the runners. I have to admit I felt a little guilty because most people probably didn't know there was even a relay going on so they could have just assumed I was a marathoner as well and not "just" a relay runner. I was sure to acknowledge them in some way by either thanking them or waving anyway. At one house, they were handing out popsicles and there was a little boy holding a sign that said "Touch Here 4 Power" that he had made himself so I made sure I did as I went by. That was cute. Part of the course ran along Lake Erie so I had some beautiful scenery as well.

Going into this race, I figured my pace was going to be somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 based on longer distance races I've done, what my training runs have been like lately, and for the fact none of use weren't expecting that our team would place in one of the top spots, there wasn't a lot of pressure to run top speed. After my first mile when my Nike+ app announced my pace was 8:55, I was shocked and told myself I started out waaaaay too fast and didn't know how I'd be able to make it 6 miles if I didn't slow down. I felt like did scale it back a bit, especially between miles 4 and 5 where there were a couple of rolling hills and by that point I was starting to lose steam. I ran them and was tired but thankfully I knew I didn't have much farther to go. Perhaps it was fate or "divine intervention", but my son, who was volunteering with his XC team, was stationed at mile 21. It was kinda cool to see/hear him cheering me on and it must have been just the extra push I needed because I got a little more spring in my step and when I saw the relay exchange a minute or two after that, the adrenaline kicked in and I sprinted to the finish.

Much to my surprise, when I was done running and checked my time on Nike+, my average pace was 8:58 for the leg. I don't know what the chip-based pace was because for whatever reason, the only relay exchange that didn't have timing equipment was the one between 3 and 4. My brother-in-law, who was runner #3, is pretty fast and I don't recall what his pace was, perhaps in the low to middle 7's for a similar distance? For what it's worth, our combined chip time was an 8:22 pace but it doesn't really matter. I am stoked that I ran as fast as I did for that distance, surprising myself once again.

My brother-in-law wanted to run the last leg so he went off with our last runner and the rest of us headed to the van. That's when I noticed my husband had a coffee in his hand. "Sheetz?! What do you mean you went to Sheetz," I said. Here I was, busting my butt running my leg and they stop to get coffee, I joked?  He said someone needed to make a pit stop and because I was using the RoadID free app, they knew exactly where I was so they had time to stop at Sheetz. All joking aside, the RoadID app came in really handy and I'll suggest anyone on our team who runs with a smart phone to download it next time.

Although we couldn't run across the finish line as a team, we thought it would be fun to run together until we reached the chute so we wait several hundred yards away from the finish until our we saw our last runner and my brother-in-law. Apparently he had encountered a marathoner who was having a hard time of it and was running with him to encourage him and make sure he was ok. Our last runner's husband, who had already run the half marathon (placing 3rd in his age group), gone home, showered, and met up with her somewhere during her leg, was running with her for moral support. She looked like she was having a tough time so we cheered as she approached us and then we all ran together until we had to part ways. After she crossed the finish line, she told us she had a bad case of the side stitches earlier in her run, had to walk some of the leg because of it, and apologized for not being faster. After I looked at the official results (gotta love having them live so you don't have to wait around to find out how you did), I mentioned to her that she ran her 4.35 miles at a 9:12 pace while our 2nd runner, who ran a leg almost the same distance, ran it at a 10:25 pace. Please don't take that as knocking our 2nd runner because that's not my intention. I just know what that self-doubt is like so I wanted to encourage her and let her know how well she really did. Guess she surprised herself, too. 

Official Stats
Our team did much better than any of us expected, especially given the fact none of us had ever done a relay before and because of the wide range of running skills we all brought to the team; a Marine who recently started running again after 16 years, a triathlete who hadn't been able to run much lately, a marathoner, me (you know my story), and a new runner who only had a couple of 5Ks under her belt and had never raced a distance longer than that. We finished the race in 4:00:57 with an average pace of 9:12 and placing 9th of 17 teams. A sweet surprise and even sweeter victory. The top team, which was comprised of members from the running club, finished in 2:42:03! Can you say flying?!

So why would I never run a marathon? The feat (no pun intended) really doesn't appeal to me. Sure, it was fun driving the marathon distance and going from relay point to relay point but having to run that distance? And running for 4+ hours? I love to run and I love to race but doing it for 26.2 miles isn't something that really interests me. I do admire those that have the ambition and drive to accomplish it and give them a lot of credit, though. As I mentioned, I started my leg around mile 16. As I was running, I was thinking about all those people who had already been running and how they must have been feeling at that point. I was tired and I had just started! About halfway through my leg, I came up behind a marathoner whose support team was driving next to him for a minute or two before driving up on head out of our sight. Knowing I would end up running next to him for a bit, I took out an earbud just in case he started to talk to me. He did so we chatted for a bit and exchanged stories. He said he drove over an hour from home to do this race and I joked that my house was literally less than a half a mile from where were running and that we could stop there for coffee and snacks. Although he is an avid runner, this was his first marathon and he was telling me some of the struggles he was encountering but that he'd finish, even if it meant crawling across the finish line. After a couple of minutes, I needed to pick up the pace so I wished him well and ran on ahead. I thought to myself, I only had a handful of miles left to go and I was feeling kind of blah, I can't imagine what it must have been like for him or any of the other marathoners at that point. Crossing the finish line would surely be a rush. I can attest to that because I had a similar feeling when I finished my half marathon. It was indescribable. But I can honestly say the rush of finishing a marathon is something I'm ok with not ever experiencing. On a side note, after the race and shortly before we left to go home, I saw my running "buddy" so I walked over to chat. I high fived him, said congrats, and asked how he did. He told me soon after we parted, he finally had to stop and take a break, lying down in someone's front yard. His support team, who had driven ahead of us and must have stopped to cheer him farther up the road, said they almost had to call the ambulance but after a three-minute or so break, he was better and back on the road. Maybe he wasn't properly trained, maybe he was just exhausted, who knows. Yeah, I don't have any desire to run a marathon. =)

So that's my race report for the Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person Relay. It was a great event. Very well organized, very well staffed, cool shirts and finishers medals, excellent route (loved the start and finish being at Headlands Beach State Park, one of my favorite places), great after race vibe and of course, great post-race snacks. While the marathon will never be in my sights, the 5-person relay will definitely be. I can't wait until next year!

P.S. It was completely unplanned that we three girls were all wearing pink and black. I wore it on purpose as I mentioned in my post from Sunday but the other two just happened to pick that color. Thought that was kind of neat since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. ;-)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Every Mile a Memory: Northern Ohio Marathon

A year ago, I ran my first half marathon, the Northern Ohio Marathon/Half Marathon, in honor of my dad, Richard Whitcomb AKA Papa D. I had only started running in March of that year and it was after my first 5k in June that I fell in love with running. A lot has happened over this past year and as you know, my dad is now in heaven. This morning, I ran the marathon as part of a 5-person relay team we named One Motley Crew. It's hard not to think about what I was doing a year ago, why I was running the race, or remembering how excited I was when I called my dad and told him I had finished the race and later showed him my medal without feeling sad and missing my dad something fierce. I decided that while it's ok to think of my dad and it's ok to miss him, today is a different race with new memories made with my husband, Paul, brother-in-law, Eric, two good friends, Tammy and Nicole, and my big sis, Nadine (who was our designated driver). Since it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wore pink in honor of all my sisters in pink: the warriors, the survivors, and the taken, with thoughts and memories of two very special sisters, Kris Stefanac and Julie Nelson Duellman.

Congrats to team our team for placing 9th out of 17 teams with a time of 4:00:57. I somehow managed to run my 5.87 mile leg at a pace of 8:58...a completely unexpected surprise.

Today was a day I will never forget. Great times with family and great friends. Just keep swimming....and running.

One Motley Crew